Ski Testing

Do comparitive testing to find your best pair of skis on race day.

There are many approaches used to test skis. Among these, two stand out. Parallel testing, and interval testing.

Regardless of the testing approach, there are a few common rules that apply. The skis must be prepped with the same product, and must be scraped and brushed in the manner. This requires that only a single person scrapes and brushes the skis, to avoid differences in the number of runs with the brush or the pressure applied etc.

Parallel Testing

The idea of e parallel test is to measure the differences in glide performance between two pairs of skis by having two testers run in parallel down a slope. The quality in gliding performance between the skis is measured by the gliding performance of the skis when gliding freely down the fill.

The two testers should ideally with similar weight and clothing. Similar weight is more important when testing classic skis, less so on skate. The testers find a suitable slope and marks three spots: a starting point, where the testers start to accelerate, a release point, where the testers start to glide freely, and an measuring point, where the testers measure how much one tester has distanced the other. Additionally, the testers agree on whom should equalize the speed difference before the free point. We will call this tester "tester 1".

The test:

  • The two testers start from the start point and do 2 to 6 double poling strokes.
  • After the double poling, "tester 1" grabs the hand / arm / pole of "tester 2" and equalizes the speed.
  • At the release point, "tester" lets go. From here on, the testers run freely.
  • When gliding past the measuring point, the testers look down on the skis, and visualy measure how much one pair has distanced the other. You can choose if both testers measure and agree on the distance, or if only one tester do the measurement.
  • Then, the testers stop, go back up to the starting point, exchange skis and do the same test one more time. It is important that each tester runs in the same track as the previous test.
  • After the two runs, the testers add up the distances between the skis from the two runs. This is the result of the test.

If you want to test more than two pairs of skis, you can run a cup, with quarter finales, semi finales and grand finales. The pair of ski that wins each individual test advances in the cup. In this way, you get an implicit comparison between all pairs of skis. If ski A is 20cm behind ski B and ski B is 30cm behind ski C, we can assume that ski A is 50cm behind ski C, even if we didn't explicitly test ski A and C against each other.

When choosing the starting point, the release point and the measuring point, there are a few points to consider:

  • Choose a straight slope that does not curve. It is next to impossible to run a curve the same way two times.
  • Choose the starting point where you can stand still. Typically, this will be at the top of the slope.
  • Between the starting point and the release point, you need enough distance to accelerate (with 2 to 6 double poling strokes), and to equalize the speed.
  • It should take approximately 10 seconds between the release and measurement points, and you should aim for relatively constant speed, close to competition speed.
  • You can use ski binders or sticks to mark the three points.

The repeatability is a big advantage of parallel testing. Additionally, if there are external conditions like wind, this affect both testers equally. In the video below, you can se an example of parallel testing approximately 50 seconds in.

Interval Testing

Another approach is interval testing. Here, you simply do normal intervals in a same course, changing the ski between each lap. Then you can compare skis by timing the laps, measuring heart rate, and comparing the feel of each ski. What makes intervals a good testing method is the ability to test in variable terrain. We often find that skis and structures have different properties based on the speed. Skis which feel heavy at low speeds can feel light at high speeds, and vice versa. Additionally, this can help you prep your classic skis better. Each pair of classic skis have different characteristics, and should be waxed based on their characteristics. By comparing classic skis using intervals, you are more attentive to the properties of the skis and how they feel, which makes it easier to spot mistakes in how they are waxed.

The skis that win parallel tests might not win interval tests. By doing intervals, you have the added benefit of comparing the feel of each pair. If one pair is slightly slower than another, but has much better feel, it could be the better option. It is important that the skis feel responsive and energetic to use.


A common method for comparing skis is to glide down a slope and mark where you stop. The pair of skis which glides the longest is the winner. This is a no-no for several reasons. The starting speed has a huge impact on how far you glide. Even if you start at a stand-still, you will have to nudge a bit to get going. This is not reproducable and invalidates the test. Additionally, you start and end the test at artificially low speeds. Here, the structure does not need to drain water as much as at higher speeds. Therefore, grinds with finer structures will naturally glide better at low speeds.

If you are alone at the stadium and have no option to test with others, you should rather do interval testing.


Aspects to consider when testing classic skis

  • Grip
  • Feel in the sliding phase of diagonal stride
  • Feel in the grip phase of diagonal stride
  • Speed
  • Classic skis should always be tested with grip wax (if you don't only do double poling). It is irrelevant which pair of skis is faster without grip wax if you'll use grip wax during the race

Aspects to consider when testing skate skis

  • Stability
  • Feel during V1/offset
  • Speed

Aspects to consider when testing double poling skis

  • Feel in the sliding phase of double poling in slight incline
  • Feel on flat terrain with high speeds
  • Speed

All considerations of feel must be done close to competition speed. The feel depends on the friction, which depends on the speed, meaning that the feel at one speed doesn't necessarily reflect the feel at another speed.